Advances Bigger Than Ever
Fast Company just announced their "56 Brilliant Ideas" from companies like Nike,
NASA, Ford, and many others. Some of these advances are still a ways off from production, but some (like the 2013 Ford Fusion pictured here) are already available at your local dealer.
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#5: The Boeing 787
Sure, it's big. Sure, it uses a bazillion gallons of fuel just getting warmed up. But it's beautiful. And it landed the #5 spot on my list because I envision a future where we just teleport to places, no fossil fuels necessary.
I've always been fascinated by flight, and the latest iteration of the passenger experience is no exception. It was redesigned with larger windows and a taller interior for better comfort and passenger experience. The latest jumbo jet from manufacturer Boeing actually uses 20% less fuel, partly due to improved aerodynamics and partly due to advances in materials. It's also 40% cheaper to maintain, largely due to the corrosion-resistant properties of the 23 tons of carbon fiber in the fuselage, the same material that makes up a majority of today's high-quality road bicycles and components.
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#4: The Symbionic Leg
Included for its improvements in personal transportation, which I'm a big proponent of, this bionic leg from Ossur provides what the company calls
Loaded with sensors and an advanced microprocessor help it adjust to the wearer's stride and pace, which results in advanced stability, lowered user strain, and fewer trips and falls. The user can adjust the heel height to accommodate for different shoes and it automatically calibrates to inclines and declines, helping the wearer move up and down ramps. According to the company's website, users report an astounding 86% increase in Daily Living Activities and, perhaps even more incredible, a report from wearers indicated an 80% decrease in mental fatigue. Sounds like Ossur is on the right path with their Symbionic Leg.
Ossur's device was also featured in the May 2012 issue of Popular Mechanics.
#3: 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid
Ford has really advanced the bar with the 2013 model edition of their latest winner, the Fusion Hybrid. Part Aston Martin (check out that grill) and part family sedan, this is a sporty ride that everyone can enjoy.
Gas guzzlers beware: The Hybrid Fusion sips an impressive 47 mpg both city and highway, according to the company's website. It uses their EcoBoost engine to reduce emissions and fuel consumption, improving fuel economy from a respectable 22 city/34 hwy mpg in its standard gasoline edition.
Available with a six-speed paddle-shift manual transmission, you can improve your personal fuel economy even better. If you don't know how driving a manual transmission vehicle can save you gas money, look into it. And if you just don't know how to drive a car with a manual transmission, Ford's made it easy with their paddle shifters, little buttons right on the steering wheel, for computer-controlled shifting that can't be beat by the best racetrack runners.
With safety features that will keep the most harried and reckless drivers wrapped up in a blanket, the 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid takes the #3 spot on my list of advances in transportation technology.
These guys really get around
#2: Fisker Karma
A Beautiful Electric Car For the Masses
This plug-in electric car also sports a rooftop made from solar panels and a sustainably sourced interior, including trim made from salvaged wood. The beauty of this car lies not only in its fuel efficiency, its 403 horsepower, its 959 foot-lbs at the rear wheels, or its stunning design. No, the true beauty of the Fisker Karma is that if we all drove one, for all our trips under 50 miles (which is its current electric range), we could literally save billions of dollars in fuel and maintenance costs for our vehicles. And we'd look pretty freakin' sweet doing it, too.
At just over $100,000 retail price tag, here's how to tell if you could make it work for your budget:
The Bureau of Transportation Statistics state that "U.S. daily travel averages 11 billion miles a day — almost 40 miles per person per day".  If you are an average driver, driving no more than 40 miles per day, your Fisker Karma would never need gas.
Considering that the most recent fuel economy data for vehicles sold in the United States in 2011 was 33.8 mpg and that the average American driver logs about 12,000 miles per year, you would be saving over $1400 per year in gas alone (at $4/ gallon). If you change your oil every 3,000 miles or every 3 months, you'd be saving another couple hundred bucks, too, unless you get the early bird specials, of course. That adds up to automatic savings of $1,600, right off the showroom floor.
Now, this alone won't make the payments for you, but a hundred bucks in your pocket each month is a surefire way to have some more fun while doing your part to reduce emissions and save the planet. Go you.
#1: The Faraday Bike
The team at Ideo lost a key member recently when he left to build a company around one of their projects, the Faraday Bike. The Faraday Bike was the result of a design competition by Oregon Manifest, with aims to show that "bikes can make the world a better place."
Winning design components include sustainably-harvested bamboo fenders that keep the rider from splashes and kicked-up mud and dirt when riding around town, a quick-release front rack mechanism that allows users to easily change the front cargo piece, integrated high-power front and rear lights, and a motor that seamlessly kicks in when riders ride uphill. All these components were designed with the future in mind, a future in which millions of people ride bicycles for a majority of their transportation needs, but don't necessarily consider themselves 'cyclists.'
The Faraday Bike earned the #1 spot because it alone can reduce traffic congestion and our nation's dependence on fossil fuels while simultaneously cleaning the air and improving the lives of millions of people. Yay, bikes!
Fix your ride
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